Gulliver's Travels (1939 film)

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Gulliver's Travels
Gulliverstravelsposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dave Fleischer

Animation directors
Seymour Kneitel
Willard Bowsky
Tom Palmer
Grim Natwick
William Henning
Roland Crandall
Thomas Johnson
Robert Leffingwell
Frank Kelling
Winfield Hoskins
Orestes Calpini
Produced by Max Fleischer
Written by Dan Gordon
Cal Howard
Tedd Pierce
Edmond Seward
Isadore Sparber
Based on Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift
Starring Pinto Colvig
Jack Mercer
Sam Parker
Jessica Dragonette
Lanny Ross
Tedd Pierce
Music by Victor Young
Leo Robin (songs)
Ralph Rainger (songs)
Al Neiburg (songs)
Winston Sharples (songs)
Sammy Timberg (songs)
CinematographyCharles Schettler
Production
company
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • December 22, 1939 (1939-12-22)
Running time
76 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$700,000 [1]
Box office$3.27 million [2]
Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels is a 1939 American cel-animated Technicolor feature film produced by Max Fleischer and directed by Dave Fleischer for Fleischer Studios. Released to cinemas in the United States on December 22, 1939 [3] by Paramount Pictures, the story is a very loose adaptation of Jonathan Swift's 18th century novel of the same name, specifically the first part which tells the story of Lilliput and Blefuscu, and centers around an explorer who helps a small kingdom who declared war after an argument over a wedding song. The film was Fleischer Studios' first feature-length animated film, as well as the second animated feature film produced by an American studio after Walt Disney Productions' Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs , as Paramount had commissioned the feature in response to the success of that film. The sequences for the film were directed by Seymour Kneitel, Willard Bowsky, Tom Palmer, Grim Natwick, William Henning, Roland Crandall, Thomas Johnson, Robert Leffingwell, Frank Kelling, Winfield Hoskins, and Orestes Calpini.

Cinema of the United States Filmmaking in the USA

The cinema of the United States, often metonymously referred to as Hollywood, has had a large effect on the film industry in general since the early 20th century. The dominant style of American cinema is classical Hollywood cinema, which developed from 1917 to 1960 and characterizes most films made there to this day. While Frenchmen Auguste and Louis Lumière are generally credited with the birth of modern cinema, American cinema soon came to be a dominant force in the industry as it emerged. It produces the total largest number of films of any single-language national cinema, with more than 700 English-language films released on average every year. While the national cinemas of the United Kingdom (299), Canada (206), Australia, and New Zealand also produce films in the same language, they are not considered part of the Hollywood system. Hollywood has also been considered a transnational cinema. Classical Hollywood produced multiple language versions of some titles, often in Spanish or French. Contemporary Hollywood offshores production to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Traditional animation animation technique in which frames are hand-drawn

Traditional animation is an animation technique in which each frame is drawn by hand on a physical medium. The technique was the dominant form of animation in cinema until the advent of computer animation.

Technicolor color motion picture process

Technicolor is a series of color motion picture processes, the first version dating to 1916, and followed by improved versions over several decades.

Contents

Plot

On November 5, 1699, Lemuel Gulliver washes onto the beach of Lilliput after a storm at sea and ultimate shipwreck. Following the calm of the storm, the town crier Gabby stumbles across Gulliver in terror and rushes back to Lilliput to warn King Little of a "giant on the beach". But Little and King Bombo of Blefescu are signing a wedding contract between their children, Princess Glory and Prince David of Blefuscu, respectively. All is fine until an argument starts over which national anthem is to be played at the wedding. The argument cancels the wedding and starts a war.

Lilliput and Blefuscu fictional island

Lilliput and Blefuscu are two fictional island nations that appear in the first part of the 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. The two islands are neighbours in the South Indian Ocean, separated by a channel 800 yards (730 m) wide. Both are inhabited by tiny people who are about one-twelfth the height of ordinary human beings. Both kingdoms are empires, i.e. realms ruled by a self-styled emperor. The capital of Lilliput is Mildendo. In some pictures, the islands are arranged like an egg, as a reference to their egg-dominated histories and cultures.

After several failures, Gabby tells King Little of the "giant", and leads a mob to the beach to capture him. There, the Lilliputians tie Gulliver to a wagon on which they convey him to the capital. In the next morning, Gulliver awakens and breaks himself free; but when they see that the invading Blefuscuians are intimidated by his size, the Lilliputians enlist his help against their neighbor, treating him with hospitality and making him a new set of clothes.

King Bombo, who has sent three spies, Sneak, Snoop, and Snitch, into Lilliput, orders them to kill Gulliver, whereupon the spies steal Gulliver's flintlock pistol, confiscated by the Lilliputians, and prepare to use it against him. Meanwhile, Gulliver learns of the war's cause from Glory and David, and proposes a new song that combines the two proposed by their fathers.

When the spies assure King Bombo that they can kill Gulliver, Bombo announces by carrier pigeon that he will attack at dawn. Gabby intercepts this message and warns the Lilliputians, but is himself captured by the spies and stuffed in a sack, who prepare the pistol. As the Blefuscuian fleet approaches Lilliput, Gulliver ties them together and draws them disarmed to shore. The spies fire at Gulliver from a cliff, but Prince David diverts the shot and falls to his apparent death. Using David's body to illustrate his point, Gulliver scolds both Lilliput and Blefuscu for fighting; when they solemnize a truce, Gulliver reveals that David is unharmed, whereupon David and Glory sing their combined song for everyone to hear. The spies release Gabby from the sack. Both sides thereafter build a new ship for Gulliver on which he departs.

Cast

Pinto Colvig actor

Vance DeBar Colvig, professionally Pinto Colvig, was an American vaudeville actor, voice actor, newspaper cartoonist and circus performer, whose schtick was playing the clarinet off-key while mugging. Colvig was the original Bozo the Clown, and the original voice of the Disney characters Pluto and Goofy. In 1993, he was posthumously made a Disney Legend for his contributions to Walt Disney Films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Fun and Fancy Free.

Jack Mercer American actor, animator and writer

Winfield B. "Jack" Mercer was an American voice actor, animator and writer. He is best known as the voice of cartoon characters Popeye the Sailor and Felix the Cat. The son of vaudeville and Broadway performers, he also performed on the vaudeville and legitimate stage.

Edward Stacey "Tedd" Pierce III was a screenwriter of American animated cartoons, principally from the mid-1930s to the late 1950s.

Songs

All of the songs were written by Leo Robin and composed by Ralph Rainger with the exception of "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day", which was written by Sammy Timberg, Al Neiburg and Winston Sharples.

Leo Robin was an American composer, lyricist and songwriter. He is probably best known for collaborating with Ralph Rainger on the 1938 Oscar-winning song "Thanks for the Memory", sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross in the film The Big Broadcast of 1938.

Ralph Rainger was an American composer of popular music principally for films.

Samuel "Sammy" Timberg was an American musician and composer for the stage, movie studios, and television.

The Gulliver's Travels score by Victor Young was nominated for a Best Original Score Academy Award while the song "Faithful/Forever" was nominated for Best Original Song, but both of them lost out to The Wizard of Oz with the film winning the latter category for the song "Over the Rainbow". "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day" and "All's Well" later became standard themes used for Fleischer and Famous Studios cartoon scores, while "I Hear a Dream" was quite popular as well. [4]

The Academy Award for Best Original Score is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to the best substantial body of music in the form of dramatic underscoring written specifically for the film by the submitting composer.

The Academy Award for Best Original Song is one of the awards given annually to people working in the motion picture industry by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is presented to the songwriters who have composed the best original song written specifically for a film. The performers of a song are not credited with the Academy Award unless they contributed either to music, lyrics or both in their own right. The songs that are nominated for this award are performed during the ceremony and before this award is presented.

<i>The Wizard of Oz</i> (1939 film) 1939 movie based on the book by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American musical fantasy film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, currently distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Widely considered to be one of the greatest films in cinema history, it is the best-known and most commercially successful adaptation of L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Directed primarily by Victor Fleming, the film stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale alongside Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr.

Production

GulliversTravelsFleisherStudios002.jpg
GloryDavidGulliver'stravels.JPG
Gulliver's Travels, 1939.

Max Fleischer had envisioned a feature as early as 1934. But Paramount vetoed the idea based largely on their interests in maintaining financial solvency following their series of bankruptcy reorganizations. However, after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs , Paramount wanted to duplicate the Disney success and ordered a feature for a 1939 Christmas release. When the story was first written in New York, Popeye the Sailor had originally been cast as Gulliver. This was scrapped, however, and the story was restructured once the West Coast team of Cal Howard, Tedd Pierce, and Edmond Seward came aboard.

<i>Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs</i> (1937 film) 1937 Disney film

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a 1937 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and originally released by RKO Radio Pictures. Based on the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, it is the first full-length cel animated feature film and the earliest Disney animated feature film. The story was adapted by storyboard artists Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Creedon, Merrill De Maris, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dick Rickard, Ted Sears and Webb Smith. David Hand was the supervising director, while William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, and Ben Sharpsteen directed the film's individual sequences.

Cal Howard was an American cartoon story artist, animator and director mostly remembered for his work at Walter Lantz and Warner Bros. He was also the voice actor of Gabby Goat in Get Rich Quick Porky.

Edmond Seward was a Hollywood screenwriter who had originally attended Northwestern University and worked as a journalist, before doing some writing for Disney.

One of the major challenges for Fleischer Studios was the 18 month delivery envelope, coming at a time when Fleischer Studios was relocating to Miami, Florida. While Snow White was in production for 18 months, it had been in development for just as long, allowing for a total of three years to reach the screen. To meet this deadline, the Fleischer staff was greatly expanded to some 800 employees. Animation training classes were set up with Miami art schools as a conduit for additional workers. Experienced lead animators were lured from Hollywood studios, including Nelson Demorest, Joe D'Igalo, and former Fleischer Animators Grim Natwick, Al Eugster, and Shamus Culhane, who returned after working for the Walt Disney Studios.

Several West Coast techniques were introduced in order to provide better animation and greater personality in the characters. Some animators adapted while others did not. Pencil tests were unheard of in New York but were soon embraced as a tool for improving production methods. And while the majority of the characters were animated through conventional animation techniques, rotoscoping was used to animate Gulliver, Glory, and David. Sam Parker, the voice of Gulliver, also modeled for the live-action reference.

The rushed schedule seemed to take precedence over quality, and overtime was the order of the day. Even with the rush, deadlines were compromised with Paramount considering canceling the film. Relations with the Technicolor lab were strained due to these constant delays largely associated with the remote location of Miami. With all of this drama, it looked as though Fleischer would never meet the delivery date.

Fleischer Studios delivered Gulliver for Paramount's planned Christmas release schedule, opening in New York on December 20, 1939, going into general release two days later. Considering the potential demonstrated in the two Popeye specials, Gulliver’s Travels seemed a lesser experience. This much-anticipated feature produced by Max Fleischer was still met with by an eager public and started out well, breaking box office records in spite of the inevitable comparisons to Snow White.

Based on the overwhelming business success of Gulliver’s Travels in its opening run, Barney Balaban immediately ordered another feature for a 1941 Christmas release. In spite of running over the original budget, Paramount made a profit of at least $1,000,000 domestically. [5]

Vocal Talent

The voice cast consisted of a variety of performers. The voice of Gabby was provided by Pinto Colvig, who had previously worked at Disney's. Colvig had previously been the voice of Goofy, provided vocal effects for Pluto, was the stern Practical Pig in The Three Little Pigs , and voiced Grumpy and Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Jack Mercer, who portrayed King Little of Lilliput, was a story man for Fleischer's who lent his voice the gruff Popeye the Sailor. In addition to voicing King Little, Mercer was also the voice behind Bombo's spies, Sneak, Snoop, and Snitch. Mercer was a regular voice heard in Fleischer and Famous Studios cartoons, and worked for Paramount until Famous Studios was dissolved. Jessica Dragonette and Lanny Ross were both popular singers of the day, and were hired to sing for Princess Glory and Prince David, respectively. Sam Parker was a radio announcer in the 1930s who won the role of Gulliver in a radio contest. When the Fleischers met Parker, they felt that his appearance was suitable for him to also perform in the live action footage that would be rotoscoped to create Gulliver's movement. [6] Tedd Pierce was a story man hired away from Leon Schlesinger Productions to join Fleischer in their trip to Miami. Pierce, who would occasionally do voices for some of the characters in the cartoons, played King Bombo.

Release

Like Snow White before it, Gulliver was a success at the box office, earning $3.27 million in the United States during its original run, even as it was limited to fifty theaters during the 1939 Christmas season. [7] This box office success prompted the order of a second feature set for a Christmas 1941 release Mr. Bug Goes to Town . Following its domestic run, Gulliver's Travels went into foreign release starting in February 1940.

In spite of the profits earned domestically and internationally, Paramount held Fleischer Studios to a $350,000 penalty for going over budget. This was the beginning of the financial difficulties Fleischer Studios encountered as it entered the 1940s.

When the Fleischer film library was sold to television in 1955, Gulliver's Travels was included and became a local television station holiday film shown during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It was also re-released theatrically in Technicolor prints for Saturday matinee children's programs well into the mid 1960s.

Home video releases

Due to the film's public domain status, it has been released by many distributors in various home video formats. E1 Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray Disc on March 10, 2009, but received strong criticism for presenting the movie in a stretched and cropped 1.75:1 format, as well as applying heavy noise reduction. [8] [9] [10] [11] In March 2014, Thunderbean Animation released a superior restored version of the film with several Fleischer Studios shorts in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack titled Fleischer Classics Featuring Gulliver's Travels. [12] [13]

Awards

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards:

It lost both to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's The Wizard of Oz .

Spin-off cartoons

The film was spun off into two short-lived Fleischer cartoon short series: the Gabby series and the Animated Antics cartoons starring the three spies, Sneak, Snoop and Snitch and Twinkletoes (the carrier pigeon).

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

<i>Gullivers Travels</i> novel by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, is a prose satire by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, that is both a satire on human nature and the "travellers' tales" literary subgenre. It is Swift's best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature. He himself claimed that he wrote Gulliver's Travels "to vex the world rather than divert it".

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References

  1. Gulliver's Travels (1939) - Notes - TCM.com, tcm.com, Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  2. http://www.ultimatemovierankings.com/top-grossing-movies-of-1939/
  3. "Gulliver's Travels". American Film Institute. 22 December 1939. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  4. Music: January Records - TIME
  5. Pointer, Ray (2016). The Art and Inventions of Max Fleischer: American Animation Pioneer, McFarland & Co. Publishers. Pg.248-264
  6. Sam Parker (I) - Biography
  7. http://www.ultimatemovierankings.com/top-grossing-movies-of-1939/
  8. DVD Beaver
  9. DVD Verdict Archived 2009-04-26 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Animated Views
  11. Kehr, Dave (March 6, 2009). "Classics From Disney and a Lilliputian Competitor". The New York Times . Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  12. Cartoonresearch.com
  13. Blu-ray.com